A master of pick-and-roll execution, an elite shooter off the dribble and a pest of a defender. A leader, a winner and one of the most clutch players of the last 25 years.
Chris Paul is, simply, one of the best point guards in NBA history. And at the age of 36, he’s still going strong.
Paul ranks fifth all-time in steals and third all-time in assists, with countless highlights among all those dimes.
A native of North Carolina, Paul gained national attention in 2002 when he scored 61 points in a game for West Forsyth High School, honoring his grandfather, who had been killed days earlier at the age of 61. As a senior, he was a First Team All-American and was named Mr. Basketball for the state of North Carolina.
After two years at Wake Forest University, Paul was selected with the fourth pick in the 2005 Draft. He joined the New Orleans Hornets, and his potential was on full display at the 2005 NBA Summer League.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August of 2005, the Hornets played in Oklahoma City for Paul’s first two seasons in the league. He was the ninth rookie in NBA history to average at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists, and he led the Hornets to a 38-44 record, 20 more wins than they had the season prior. Paul won Rookie of the Year honors for the 2005-06 season, coming one vote shy of being a unanimous winner.
After another season in Oklahoma City, the Hornets returned to New Orleans, and they were one of the league’s most improved teams in 2007-08, winning 56 games and earning the 2 seed in the Western Conference. Paul was named an All-Star for the first time and earned First Team All-NBA honors in just his third season in the league.
He also got his first taste of the playoffs. The Hornets defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and Paul capped the series with a triple-double in Game 5.
The Hornets reached the playoffs in three of the next four seasons, with the only exception being the season (2009-10) in which Paul played only 45 games. Then just before the 2011-12 season, Paul was traded to the LA Clippers, where he quickly turned the Clippers into contenders. The Clippers reached the playoffs in all six of Paul’s seasons in Los Angeles, having done so just seven times in their 41 seasons prior to that.
One of Paul’s greatest playoff performances came in Game 7 of the first round against the defending champion Spurs in 2015. He scored 27 points (on 9-for-13 shooting) and hit the game-winner — an off-balance runner off the glass — with one second remaining.
Paul has earned the nickname “Point God” from hoop heads who appreciate his handles, his passing and his ability to manipulate defenses. His career is filled with memorable moments where his dribbling skills were on full display.
He’s a hoop head himself, known to watch multiple games on nights he isn’t playing and have accounts for stats and video sites usually reserved for the coaching staff. He’s seen and knows how to beat every kind of pick-and-roll coverage and has become one of the best mid-range shooters of the last 25 years. He knows that if he can get to his spot (around the right elbow), then he doesn’t need to even look at the basket.
Paul is a talker, whether it be to motivate his teammates, to offer some advice, to rattle opponents or to demand the ball.
Paul has two Olympic gold medals, 11 All-Star selections, 10 All-NBA selections, and nine All-Defense selections. In 16 full seasons in the league, he’s reached the playoffs 13 times. But trips deep into the postseason eluded him until he reached the conference finals with the No. 1 seed Houston Rockets in 2018. And as the Rockets were finishing off a Game 5 victory to take a 3-2 series lead over the Warriors, Paul suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of Games 6 and 7, both won by Golden State.
After another season in Houston and one in Oklahoma City (with the Thunder this time), Paul was traded to Phoenix before the 2020-21 season. And in Year 16, he led a team that missed the playoffs the year before all the way to The Finals.
“He’s the greatest leader to play this game,” Devin Booker said after Paul led the Suns to a Game 1 victory with 32 points and nine assists. “He leads this team daily, and just having him in the locker room … I’m not even talking about anything he does on the court … it takes a team to that next level.”
Indeed, in his rookie season, Paul led the Hornets to a 20-win increase. Upon his move to L.A., the Clippers went from 32-50 to 40-26. When he was traded to Houston, the Rockets won 10 more games than they did the season before. And in his first season in Phoenix, the Suns saw a jump of 17 wins.
And in Year 17, Paul remains one of the best floor generals in the league.
The Point God is still doing work.
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